Kelli Murphy
Gulf Breeze, FL


 

The Holocaust. Simple words that bring to mind the suffering and death of eleven million people at the hands of the Nazis (Schwartz). These words also remind us that future genocide must be stopped. Learning about the major factors that caused the Holocaust in Germany––anti–Semitism, dictatorship, lack of resistance both internally and internationally – can prevent future Holocausts. The factors that enabled the Holocaust and measures that will prevent their emergence should be examined.

The first enabling factor that helped to start the Holocaust was prejudice. In this case, the prejudice is called anti-Semitism. Most Germans in the 1930s were anti–Semitic and used the theory of Social Darwinism to their advantage, stating that their race called the Aryans were superior (Lace 14), while the Jews were a race that "‘lived off’ the other races and weakened them" (Bachrach 12). Therefore, to destroy all Jews was to preserve Germany (Goldhagen 393) and to not do so was unpatriotic and treacherous (Goldhagen 394). The solution to the problem of anti–Semitism, or prejudice, is education. The belief that everyone is equal must be instilled in children at home for it to really take effect.

The emergence of a dictator is the second factor in the cause of the Holocaust. With the majority of Germany’s population anti–Semitic, a person could easily become a dictator; one such dictator–to–be was Adolf Hitler. Hitler used the Germans’ anti–Semitism to his advantage by blaming all of Germany’s problems on Jews (Lace 31), stating that it "was part of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy" (Lace 53). The German people, swayed by Hitler’s speeches which seemed all too true to Germany’s non–Jewish citizens, elected him Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933 (Lace 51). It wasn’t long before Hitler was a dictator, and the democratic Germany was gone (Lace 61). In the military, all German soldiers were required to "render unconditional obedience to Adolf Hilter" (Lace 62). Now that Hitler was a dictator, his ideas were rarely challenged (Lace 58); any opponents of the Nazi regime were killed (Bachrach 10). This would effectively stop any form of resistance in Germany, allowing Hitler to continue unhindered. The solution to the problem with a dictator is a strong, democratic government. While Germany did have a democracy, it was too easily corrupted. A capable, democratic government that used the system of checks and balances would have been an effective force blocking Hitler’s rise to power and eventual dictatorship.

The third factor was the little German resistance to the Holocaust when Hitler first started his transportation of the Jews to concentration camps. Without the help of German citizens, the Holocaust might have been prevented (Goldhagen 416), but unfortunately, most Germans became Hitler’s willing executioners. In the military, most soldiers were given the option of not participating in the killings of Jews, but the vast majority decided against this option (Goldhagen 377), taking particular pleasure in killing Jews when it was ordered and even when it wasn’t (Goldhagen 376). This intense hatred of the "terrestrial demon," the Jew, was shown when, instead of remaining emotionally uninvolved with their murders, soldiers would find ways to cruelly torture their victims (Goldhagen 398). The soldiers would even take pictures of their actions, proudly displaying them to friends and family (Goldhagen 405). Sometimes even citizens within hearing range of camps claimed that they never knew about the camp’s presence (Lace 95). Evidently, most Germans didn’t care to resist the murder and discrimination of Jews. However, this apathy is unacceptable. The answer to this problem is that the Germans should have taken a stand to prevent the concentration camps and the more deadly "Final Solution." For instance, the "White Rose," a group of college students lead by Hans Scholl and his sister, Sophie, made and distributed leaflets throughout the college campus. Unfortunately, Hans and Sophie were found and executed (Switzer). Although their resistance was destined to be doomed, more Germans should have protested the Holocaust.

Resistance was also lacking internationally as well as internally. While it is true that people outside of Germany did not join in the Nazi genocide, they did not try to stop it either. Unfortunately, most people were painfully silent (Bachrach 64). Many countries weren’t willing to accept fleeing Jews; they were afraid that their citizens would have to compete for jobs, or they simply didn’t like Jews. In July 1938, a conference in Evian, France, was held. Most countries "came prepared to say, not what they could do for the Jews, but what they would not do" (Lace 73). The solution to this problem is that the countries should have united to put a stop to the Holocaust sooner. The Danes were one of the few groups that actively supported the Jews early on. Consequently, many more Jews survived the concentration camps in Denmark (Bachrach 64). If more countries had tried to prevent the Holocaust, millions of Jews would have been spared their death.

All four factors mentioned are essential for a mass killing to be carried out successfully. The Holocaust isn’t the only genocide; it has been estimated that as many as 16 nations "have attempted or committed genocide" (Genocide). However, if one of these factors is taken out of the equation, catastrophe can be stopped. An example was the genocide committed by the Serbs in Kosovo. The factors of ethnic cleansing, a dictator, and the help of fellow countrymen were present, but one factor was missing. Instead of standing by, many countries under NATO took action against the Serbs, stopping the genocide (Sadler). This shows that if one factor is taken out, then a mass murder can be stopped. But can future Holocausts still occur? Unfortunately, my answer is "yes," because as philosopher George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" (Lace 98).

Works Cited

 

Bachrach, Susan D. Tell Them We Remember: The Story of the Holocaust. Boston: Little, Brown, 1994.

"Genocide." Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2000. <http://encarta.msn.com>

Goldhagen, Daniel Jona. Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996.

Lace, William W. The Holocaust Library: The Nazis. San Diego: Lucent Books, 1998.

Sadler, Brent, Vinci, Alessio, McIntyre, Jamie, Plante, Christ. "NATO beefs up forces, moves to Yugoslave Oil." 23 April 1999. Cable News Network. 21 December 2000. <http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/europe/9904/23/kosovo.04/>.

Schumacher, Julie A., ed. Voices of the Holocaust. Logan, Iowa: Perfection Learning Corporation, 2000.

Schwartz, Terese Pencak. Holocaust Forgotten Memorial. 14 Decmeber 2000. <http://www.remember.org/forgotten/index.html>.

Switzer, Ellen. "White Rose." Educators’ Resource Center. 20 December 2000. <http://www.holocaustcommission.org/educator_resources/white_rose.html>.

 

 

 


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